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Irkutsk and Lake Baikal – First Impressions

An interview and videos in Irkutsk with David Owens, an American visitor.

Now I am in Siberia!
Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russian Federation

Hello, my name is David Owens
I am from Rogue River, Oregon.
I am here on a delegation to learn (more) about Russia.
This is my first time to visit Irkutsk and I am very impressed how beautiful it is.

The Lake (Baikal) is the best, really beautiful.
We also have a lake, Crater Lake, in Oregon that is very beautiful.
I am happy to find that.(connection)

We spent some time in Moscow and we saw the big city.
It is very impressive how clean it is, and how kind people were to us.
And we could compare that to American cities, and I have to say Russian cities are very safe and clean.

We were fed only food from the garden.

Now were are in Siberia to learn how Russian people live.
I was very impressed with my host family, Vladimir.
He only served us food that he grew himself.
And the same with the welcoming dinner. All the food came from the persons garden.
And that is also different and very impressive.
I am used to going to the grocery store and that often is all we have (at dinner).

So I admire that about the people we have met, the healthy food they can grow themselves.
I can also say, and probably everybody says this, it is amazing how similar Americans and Russians are when you take away politics and government, and talk person to person.

Americans and Russians are a lot alike when you remove politics.

We’re very similar, and that’s also a great thing to learn.
So, I am hoping to learn a lot more on this trip.
We have a few more days here (Irkutsk) and we’ll be off to St. Petersburg.
Thank you, for letting us visit!

Another thing we saw a lot of (in Irkutsk) was history, because we had heard about being sent to Siberia and that being a terrible thing. And …
The first morning we were going out to Lake Baikal and I was all excited to see this beautiful lake.
Well, the first stop on the road, five miles out of town, we went down a little dirt road and there was just a little simple sign that said, “Memorial.” And we went a little farther and there was just a kind of a forest that had been torn up.
This is a memorial to fifty-thousand people that were buried there and (the mass burial site) was discovered just about 20 years ago.

They found (mass) graves of people who were from all walks of life, that were put there after the Red Army won and anyone who wasn’t comfortable with being a communist in the new program was reported by a neighbor or just unpopular would, end up at this place. So, they found bodies eight-deep, 50,000 of them. They’ve created the beginnings of a monument, there are a few stones engraved, it’s just under construction. Again, not to forget what happened. People are very well of their history and how they turned on each other through that process and they are consciously trying to be more tolerant and go forward in a much better way.
But that was kind of a sobering moment on our first day.

And then we went out to Lake Baikal saw the museum. We were introduced to the fresh water seals that exist no where else in the world and they are really fat, chubby -uh, anyway, Happy little seals!

Well, we stayed with Vladimir Donskoy, who is an honorary Rotarian, but very much involved with the Rotary Group. The rotary group is about 16 people. The head of it is a young man, Dmitri, who is about 25 years-old. Last year’s president, Alexander, is about 30 years-old. And that was one thing that surprised me and maybe a difference, most Rotary Clubs I have been to tend to be a little more senior. And these guys were open, enthusiastic, very fun to be around, as was our host.

More short videos on Irkutsk. I like to let you walk-along with me without much narration and allow you to experience the scene yourself as much as possible.

A spirited panel discussion with Irkutsk University students on life and politics in both countries.

Full visit and interviews to Drug and Alcohol Rehabiliation Center in Angarsk near Irkutsk. The Center in Angarsk is a live-in program to help people with addictions return to a normal life. Strong on-going support has resulted in a 95% success rate after 5 years.

In 1825 120 members of the famed Decembrist movement were exiled to different Siberian cities, including Pushkin and his friend Volkonsky. Very unusual Orthodox Church with petting zoo and koi pond outside.

Large mineral collection from Siberia.

Art of Dashi Namdakov, well-known artist from the Irkutsk area, now living in London. Namdakov is a Buryat artist, sculptor, and jeweler and heir to the Central Asian nomadic culture, raised on the trans-baikal Steppe.

Largest clock museum in Russia at nearby Angarsk, Siberia.

The Baikal Museum on the shore of Lake Baikal.

Znamensky Monastery. Outside the church is a tomb for Grigory Shelekhov, the man who explored North America and claimed Alaska for Russia. Near the entrance is a headstone for Decembrist wife Ekaterina Trubetskaya. Admiral Kolchak, leader of the White Army, was also killed nearby during the Bolshevik revolution.

Meeting with the Great Baikal Trail organization staff and volunteers. Great Baikal Trail is dedicated to the preservation of Siberia’s Lake Baikal, the oldest, 25 million years, and deepest fresh-water lake in the world. The lake contains one fifth of all of the world’s fresh water and is home to hundreds of unique species.

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